Adelita Husni-Bey

Gasworks presents Playing Truant, the first major UK solo exhibition by Libyan Italian artist Adelita Husni-Bey.

Husni-Bey’s practice is built upon research and collaboration and encompasses drawing, painting, collage, video and participatory workshops. Her work often looks at social relations in different political contexts, from late capitalism to other alternative social imaginaries. Set against current controversies about the role of state education in England, her exhibition at Gasworks sets out to compare today’s neo-liberal understanding of ‘free school’ with past and present models of self-run or ‘anarchist’ education.

The exhibition branches out from Husni-Bey’s recent video Postcards from the Desert Island (2010–11, 22 min.), which documents a 3-week workshop that the artist organised with students from the École Vitruve, a self-run primary school in Paris. Borrowing scenarios from William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies, pupils were asked to build a desert island in their school hall. The video shows them grappling with some of the key principles and unresolved problems of self-governance, such as: imagining a life without institutions, questions of punishment and the struggle for power, how to deal with immigration and civil disobedience, and where to draw the distinction between public and private.

Postcards from the Desert Island is presented alongside two newly commissioned works that interrogate differing conceptions of ‘free school’: one having emerged in the United States in the early twentieth century and another currently unfolding in England.

The first is a sound work made in collaboration with members of New York experimental theatre group The Living Theatre, which explores how to embody the history of an anarchist model of education now, as a group. Developed during a series of workshops with the actors, the piece uses material from the archive of the Ferrer Colony and Modern School in Stelton, New Jersey. Initially founded in New York in 1911 by followers of Catalan freethinker Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia (1859–1909), this was one of the first anarchist ‘free schools’ and set a precedent for later schools such as the École Vitruve in France and Summerhill in the UK.

The second piece is a large-scale wall drawing which traces key moments in the development of educational policy in England from the 1970s up to the present day, culminating in the emergence of a new type of ‘free school’ at the hands of the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Husni-Bey’s exhibition therefore addresses the gaping discrepancy between two ‘free school’ models: one rooted in anarcho-collectivism and the other stemming from the increasing privatisation of education in England since the 1970s, packaged up with the current Conservative party’s much contested notion of the ‘big society’.

Workshop: Schooling Tomorrow
Sat 8 Dec 2012, 11am–1pm

Join us for a collaborative workshop led by artist Adelita Husni-Bey, coinciding with her Gasworks exhibition Playing Truant. The workshop invites you to share your experiences and opinions on how schools are run today; and to work as a group towards imagining the structure and function of the schools of the future. Please contact for more information.

Residencies Open Studio Weekend
Fri 14 Dec and Sat 15 Dec 2012, 12 - 6pm

Current residency artists Emanuel Almborg, Marina Camargo, Alberto Lezaca and Duke Riley conclude their residencies by opening their studios to the public, giving visitors a unique opportunity to meet with them and explore the work they have produced during their time in London.

Events happening over the open studio weekend:

Open Studio Tour
Fri 14 Dec, 7pm

Residencies Programmer Rowan Geddis leads an informal tour of the residency artists' studios, introducing the projects developed during their time at Gasworks.

Talk and In-Conversation
Sat 15 Dec, 2pm
Guests TBC

Emanuel Almborg discusses the research he has carried out over the course of his residency, which focusses on the democratic school of Summerhill, Suffolk and its history.
Adelita Husni-Bey

Event Title: Adelita Husni-Bey
Postcode: Gasworks & Triangle Network, 155 Vauxhall Street, London. SE11 5RH
Further Details:
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Contact Email: t. +44(0)20 7587 5202